Yes – provided certain conditions are met. In Scotland, the public enjoy a general right of responsible access to land under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. Using a car to access the outdoors is, however, not always straightforward – especially when there is no car park available.

All roads in Scotland are owned by someone. Separate to that, they are designated as either 'public' or 'private' depending on how they are maintained. Roads that are maintained by a road authority at the public's expense are public roads. A private road is any road that is not a public road.

Being on or crossing over land in a motorised vehicle does not come within the right of responsible access. Members of the public can only drive on a private road where there is a legal right to do so, or where there is permission of the landowner.

The situation is different if they are driving down a public right of way. A public right of way is a public right of passage between two public locations. While these are largely for pedestrian use, they can be established for passage by motorised vehicles. A catalogue of public rights of way is maintained by Scotways, the Rights of Way and Access society.

The Scottish Outdoor Access Code recognises that many people use cars to access the outdoors. The access code advises that any parked vehicles should not cause any damage or create obstruction and recommends the following behaviour:

  1. not blocking an entrance to a field or building;
  2. not making it difficult for other people to use a road or track;
  3. having regard for the safety of others;
  4. not damaging the verge; and
  5. using a car park if one is nearby.

Landowners are not allowed to erect signs nor create obstructions or dangerous impediments where the purpose is to deter or prevent the exercise of public access rights. The blocking of existing roadside parking areas that are used for access purposes, without giving appropriate notice to the local authority, would be considered unreasonable behaviour.

For public rights of way, while there is no right to park on a right of way itself, parking at the end of a public right of way is permitted so long as the parking is for access and would otherwise be legal.


Pete Tolmie

Senior Solicitor